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1.  Parental Separation and Early Substance Involvement: Results from Children of Alcoholic and Cannabis Dependent Twins 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;134:78-84.
Background
Risks associated with parental separation have received limited attention in research on children of parents with substance use disorders. We examined early substance involvement as a function of parental separation during childhood and parental alcohol and cannabis dependence.
Method
Data were drawn from 1,318 adolescent offspring of monozygotic (MZ) or dizygotic (DZ) Australian twin parents. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were conducted predicting age at first use of alcohol, first alcohol intoxication, first use and first regular use of cigarettes, and first use of cannabis, from parental separation and both parent and cotwin substance dependence. Parent and cotwin alcohol and cannabis dependence were initially modeled separately, with post-hoc tests for equality of effects.
Results
With few exceptions, risks associated with parental alcohol versus cannabis dependence could be equated, with results largely suggestive of genetic transmission of risk from parental substance (alcohol or cannabis) dependence broadly defined. Controlling for parental substance dependence, parental separation was a strong predictor for all substance use variables, especially through age 13.
Conclusion
Together, findings underscore the importance of parental separation as a risk-factor for early substance involvement over and above both genetic and environmental influences specific to parental alcohol and cannabis dependence.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.09.010
PMCID: PMC3908916  PMID: 24120074
adolescent substance use; parental separation; parental substance dependence; children of twins
2.  Association of OPRD1 Polymorphisms with Heroin Dependence in a Large Case-control Series 
Addiction biology  2012;19(1):10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00445.x.
Genes encoding the opioid receptors (OPRM1, OPRD1, and OPRK1) are obvious candidates for involvement in risk for heroin dependence. Prior association studies commonly had samples of modest size, included limited single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) coverage of these genes, and yielded inconsistent results. Participants for the current investigation included 1459 heroin dependent cases ascertained from maintenance clinics in New South Wales, Australia, 1495 unrelated individuals selected from an Australian sample of twins and siblings as not meeting DSM-IV criteria for lifetime alcohol or illicit drug dependence (non-dependent controls), and 531 controls ascertained from economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods in proximity to the maintenance clinics. A total of 136 OPRM1, OPRD1, and OPRK1 SNPs were genotyped in this sample. After controlling for admixture with principal components analysis, our comparison of cases to non-dependent controls found 4 OPRD1 SNPs in fairly high linkage disequilibrium for which adjusted p values remained significant (e.g., rs2236857; OR 1.25; p=2.95 × 10−4) replicating a previously reported association. A post-hoc analysis revealed that the two-SNP (rs2236857 and rs581111) GA haplotype in OPRD1 is associated with greater risk (OR 1.68; p=1.41 × 10−5). No OPRM1 or OPRK1 SNPs reached more than nominal significance. Comparisons of cases to neighborhood controls reached only nominal significance. Our results replicate a prior report providing strong evidence implicating OPRD1 SNPs and, in particular, the two SNP (rs2236857 and rs581111) GA haplotype in liability for heroin dependence. Support was not found for similar association involving either OPRM1 or OPRK1 SNPs.
doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00445.x
PMCID: PMC3867542  PMID: 22500942
association study; heroin dependence; OPRD1; OPRK1; OPRM1
3.  Detection and replication of epistasis influencing transcription in humans 
Nature  2014;508(7495):249-253.
Epistasis is the phenomenon whereby one polymorphism’s effect on a trait depends on other polymorphisms present in the genome. The extent to which epistasis influences complex traits1 and contributes to their variation2,3 is a fundamental question in evolution and human genetics. Though often demonstrated in artificial gene manipulation studies in model organisms4,5, and some examples have been reported in other species6, few examples exist for epistasis amongst natural polymorphisms in human traits7,8. Its absence from empirical findings may simply be due to low incidence in the genetic control of complex traits2,3, but an alternative view is that it has previously been too technically challenging to detect due to statistical and computational issues9. Here we show that, using advanced computation10 and a gene expression study design, many instances of epistasis are found between common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In a cohort of 846 individuals with 7339 gene expression levels measured in peripheral blood, we found 501 significant pairwise interactions between common SNPs influencing the expression of 238 genes (p < 2.91 × 10−16). Replication of these interactions in two independent data sets11,12 showed both concordance of direction of epistatic effects (p = 5.56 ×10−31) and enrichment of interaction p-values, with 30 being significant at a conservative threshold of p < 0.05/501. Forty-four of the genetic interactions are located within 2Mb of regions of known physical chromosome interactions13 (p = 1.8 × 10−10). Epistatic networks of three SNPs or more influence the expression levels of 129 genes, whereby one cis-acting SNP is modulated by several trans-acting SNPs. For example MBNL1 is influenced by an additive effect at rs13069559 which itself is masked by trans-SNPs on 14 different chromosomes, with nearly identical genotype-phenotype (GP) maps for each cis-trans interaction. This study presents the first evidence for multiple instances of segregating common polymorphisms interacting to influence human traits.
doi:10.1038/nature13005
PMCID: PMC3984375  PMID: 24572353
4.  Meta-analysis of telomere length in 19 713 subjects reveals high heritability, stronger maternal inheritance and a paternal age effect 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(10):1163-1168.
Telomere length (TL) has been associated with aging and mortality, but individual differences are also influenced by genetic factors, with previous studies reporting heritability estimates ranging from 34 to 82%. Here we investigate the heritability, mode of inheritance and the influence of parental age at birth on TL in six large, independent cohort studies with a total of 19 713 participants. The meta-analysis estimate of TL heritability was 0.70 (95% CI 0.64–0.76) and is based on a pattern of results that is highly similar for twins and other family members. We observed a stronger mother–offspring (r=0.42; P-value=3.60 × 10−61) than father–offspring correlation (r=0.33; P-value=7.01 × 10−5), and a significant positive association with paternal age at offspring birth (β=0.005; P-value=7.01 × 10−5). Interestingly, a significant and quite substantial correlation in TL between spouses (r=0.25; P-value=2.82 × 10−30) was seen, which appeared stronger in older spouse pairs (mean age ≥55 years; r=0.31; P-value=4.27 × 10−23) than in younger pairs (mean age<55 years; r=0.20; P-value=3.24 × 10−10). In summary, we find a high and very consistent heritability estimate for TL, evidence for a maternal inheritance component and a positive association with paternal age.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2012.303
PMCID: PMC3778341  PMID: 23321625
telomere length; heritability; paternal age effect
5.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of Sleep Habits and Insomnia 
Several aspects of sleep behaviour such as timing, duration and quality have been demonstrated to be heritable. To identify common variants that influence sleep traits in the population, we conducted a genome-wide association study of 6 sleep phenotypes assessed by questionnaire in a sample of 2,323 individuals from the Australian Twin Registry. Genotyping was performed on the Illumina 317K, 370K and 610K arrays and the common Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms between platforms were used to impute non-genotyped SNPs. We tested for association with more than 2,000,000 common polymorphisms across the genome. While no SNPs reached the genome-wide significance threshold, we identified a number of associations in plausible candidate genes. Most notably, a group of SNPs in the 3rd intron of the CACNA1C gene ranked as most significant in the analysis of sleep latency (p = 1.3 × 10−6). We attempted to replicate this association in an independent sample from the Chronogen Consortium (n = 2,034), but found no evidence of association (p = 0.73). We have identified several other associations that await replication in an independent sample. Our study had good power to detect common single nucleotide polymorphisms that explain more than 2% of the phenotypic variance in self-report sleep phenotypes at a genome-wide significant level. No such variants were detected.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.32168
PMCID: PMC4083458  PMID: 23728906
insomnia; genetics; mood; sleep; circadian
6.  Overlap of expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTL) in human brain and blood 
BMC Medical Genomics  2014;7:31.
Background
Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) are genomic regions regulating RNA transcript expression levels. Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS) have identified many variants, often in non-coding regions, with unknown functions and eQTL provide a possible mechanism by which these variants may influence observable phenotypes. Limited access and availability of tissues such as brain has led to the use of blood as a substitute for eQTL analyses.
Methods
Here, we evaluate the overlap of eQTL reported in published studies conducted in blood and brain tissues to assess the utility of blood as an alternative to brain tissue in the study of neurological and psychiatric conditions. Expression QTL results from eight published brain studies were compared to blood eQTL identified in from a meta-analysis involving 5,311 individuals. We accounted for differences in SNP platforms and study design by using SNP proxies in high linkage disequilibrium with reported eQTL. The degree of overlap between studies was calculated by ascertaining if an eQTL identified in one study was also identified in the other study.
Results
The percentage of eQTL overlapping for brain and blood expression after adjusting for differences in sample size ranged from 13 - 23% (mean 19.2%). Amongst pairs of brain studies eQTL overlap ranged from 0 - 35%, with higher degrees of overlap found for studies using expression data collected from the same brain region.
Conclusion
Our results suggest that whenever possible tissue specific to the pathophysiology of the disease being studied should be used for transcription analysis.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-7-31
PMCID: PMC4066287  PMID: 24894490
7.  Contribution of genetic variation to transgenerational inheritance of DNA methylation 
Genome Biology  2014;15(5):R73.
Background
Despite the important role DNA methylation plays in transcriptional regulation, the transgenerational inheritance of DNA methylation is not well understood. The genetic heritability of DNA methylation has been estimated using twin pairs, although concern has been expressed whether the underlying assumption of equal common environmental effects are applicable due to intrauterine differences between monozygotic and dizygotic twins. We estimate the heritability of DNA methylation on peripheral blood leukocytes using Illumina HumanMethylation450 array using a family based sample of 614 people from 117 families, allowing comparison both within and across generations.
Results
The correlations from the various available relative pairs indicate that on average the similarity in DNA methylation between relatives is predominantly due to genetic effects with any common environmental or zygotic effects being limited. The average heritability of DNA methylation measured at probes with no known SNPs is estimated as 0.187. The ten most heritable methylation probes were investigated with a genome-wide association study, all showing highly statistically significant cis mQTLs. Further investigation of one of these cis mQTL, found in the MHC region of chromosome 6, showed the most significantly associated SNP was also associated with over 200 other DNA methylation probes in this region and the gene expression level of 9 genes.
Conclusions
The majority of transgenerational similarity in DNA methylation is attributable to genetic effects, and approximately 20% of individual differences in DNA methylation in the population are caused by DNA sequence variation that is not located within CpG sites.
doi:10.1186/gb-2014-15-5-r73
PMCID: PMC4072933  PMID: 24887635
8.  Identification of seven loci affecting mean telomere length and their association with disease 
Codd, Veryan | Nelson, Christopher P. | Albrecht, Eva | Mangino, Massimo | Deelen, Joris | Buxton, Jessica L. | Jan Hottenga, Jouke | Fischer, Krista | Esko, Tõnu | Surakka, Ida | Broer, Linda | Nyholt, Dale R. | Mateo Leach, Irene | Salo, Perttu | Hägg, Sara | Matthews, Mary K. | Palmen, Jutta | Norata, Giuseppe D. | O’Reilly, Paul F. | Saleheen, Danish | Amin, Najaf | Balmforth, Anthony J. | Beekman, Marian | de Boer, Rudolf A. | Böhringer, Stefan | Braund, Peter S. | Burton, Paul R. | de Craen, Anton J. M. | Denniff, Matthew | Dong, Yanbin | Douroudis, Konstantinos | Dubinina, Elena | Eriksson, Johan G. | Garlaschelli, Katia | Guo, Dehuang | Hartikainen, Anna-Liisa | Henders, Anjali K. | Houwing-Duistermaat, Jeanine J. | Kananen, Laura | Karssen, Lennart C. | Kettunen, Johannes | Klopp, Norman | Lagou, Vasiliki | van Leeuwen, Elisabeth M. | Madden, Pamela A. | Mägi, Reedik | Magnusson, Patrik K.E. | Männistö, Satu | McCarthy, Mark I. | Medland, Sarah E. | Mihailov, Evelin | Montgomery, Grant W. | Oostra, Ben A. | Palotie, Aarno | Peters, Annette | Pollard, Helen | Pouta, Anneli | Prokopenko, Inga | Ripatti, Samuli | Salomaa, Veikko | Suchiman, H. Eka D. | Valdes, Ana M. | Verweij, Niek | Viñuela, Ana | Wang, Xiaoling | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Widen, Elisabeth | Willemsen, Gonneke | Wright, Margaret J. | Xia, Kai | Xiao, Xiangjun | van Veldhuisen, Dirk J. | Catapano, Alberico L. | Tobin, Martin D. | Hall, Alistair S. | Blakemore, Alexandra I.F. | van Gilst, Wiek H. | Zhu, Haidong | Erdmann, Jeanette | Reilly, Muredach P. | Kathiresan, Sekar | Schunkert, Heribert | Talmud, Philippa J. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Perola, Markus | Ouwehand, Willem | Kaprio, Jaakko | Martin, Nicholas G. | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Hovatta, Iiris | Gieger, Christian | Metspalu, Andres | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Slagboom, P. Eline | Thompson, John R. | Spector, Tim D. | van der Harst, Pim | Samani, Nilesh J.
Nature genetics  2013;45(4):422-427e2.
Inter-individual variation in mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with cancer and several age-associated diseases. Here, in a genome-wide meta-analysis of 37,684 individuals with replication of selected variants in a further 10,739 individuals, we identified seven loci, including five novel loci, associated with mean LTL (P<5x10−8). Five of the loci contain genes (TERC, TERT, NAF1, OBFC1, RTEL1) that are known to be involved in telomere biology. Lead SNPs at two loci (TERC and TERT) associate with several cancers and other diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, a genetic risk score analysis combining lead variants at all seven loci in 22,233 coronary artery disease cases and 64,762 controls showed an association of the alleles associated with shorter LTL with increased risk of CAD (21% (95% CI: 5–35%) per standard deviation in LTL, p=0.014). Our findings support a causal role of telomere length variation in some age-related diseases.
doi:10.1038/ng.2528
PMCID: PMC4006270  PMID: 23535734
9.  Hypermethylation in the ZBTB20 gene is associated with major depressive disorder 
Genome Biology  2014;15(4):R56.
Background
Although genetic variation is believed to contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to major depressive disorder, genome-wide association studies have not yet identified associations that could explain the full etiology of the disease. Epigenetics is increasingly believed to play a major role in the development of common clinical phenotypes, including major depressive disorder.
Results
Genome-wide MeDIP-Sequencing was carried out on a total of 50 monozygotic twin pairs from the UK and Australia that are discordant for depression. We show that major depressive disorder is associated with significant hypermethylation within the coding region of ZBTB20, and is replicated in an independent cohort of 356 unrelated case-control individuals. The twins with major depressive disorder also show increased global variation in methylation in comparison with their unaffected co-twins. ZBTB20 plays an essential role in the specification of the Cornu Ammonis-1 field identity in the developing hippocampus, a region previously implicated in the development of major depressive disorder.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that aberrant methylation profiles affecting the hippocampus are associated with major depressive disorder and show the potential of the epigenetic twin model in neuro-psychiatric disease.
doi:10.1186/gb-2014-15-4-r56
PMCID: PMC4072999  PMID: 24694013
10.  ANKK1, TTC12, and NCAM1 Polymorphisms and Heroin Dependence – importance of considering drug exposure 
JAMA psychiatry (Chicago, Ill.)  2013;70(3):325-333.
Context
The genetic contribution to liability for opioid dependence is well-established; identification of the responsible genes has proved challenging.
Objective
To examine association of 1430 candidate gene single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with heroin dependence, reporting here only the 71 SNPs in the chromosome 11 gene cluster (NCAM1, TTC12, ANKK1, DRD2) that include the strongest observed associations.
Design
Case-control genetic association study that included two control groups (lacking an established optimal control group).
Setting
Semi-structured psychiatric interviews
Participants
Australian cases (N=1459) ascertained from opioid replacement therapy (ORT) clinics, neighborhood controls (N=531) ascertained from economically disadvantaged areas near opioid replacement therapy clinics, and unrelated Australian Twin Registry (ATR) controls (N=1495) not dependent on alcohol or illicit drugs selected from a twin and family sample.
Main Outcome Measure
Lifetime heroin dependence
Results
Comparison of cases with Australian Twin Registry controls found minimal evidence of association for all chromosome 11 cluster SNPs (p≥.01); a similar comparison to neighborhood controls revealed greater differences (p≥1.8 × 10−4). Comparing cases (N=1459) with the subgroup of neighborhood controls not dependent on illicit drugs (N=340), three SNPs were significantly associated (correcting for multiple testing): ANKK1 SNP rs877138 [most strongly associated; odds ratio 1.59; 95%CI (1.32–1.92); p=9.7 × 10−7], ANKK1 SNP rs4938013 and TTC12 SNP rs7130431. A similar pattern of association was observed when comparing illicit drug-dependent (N=191) and non-dependent (N=340) neighborhood controls, suggesting that liability likely extends to non-opioid illicit drug dependence. Aggregate heroin dependence risk associated with two SNPs, rs877138 and rs4492854 (located in NCAM1), varied more than 4-fold (p= 2.74 × 10−9 for the risk-associated linear trend).
Conclusions
Our results provide further evidence of association for chromosome 11 gene cluster SNPs with substance dependence, including extension of liability to illicit drug dependence. Our findings highlight the necessity of considering drug exposure history when selecting control groups for genetic investigations of illicit drug dependence.
doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.282
PMCID: PMC3789525  PMID: 23303482
11.  Examining the Association of NRXN3 SNPs with Borderline Personality Disorder Phenotypes in Heroin Dependent Cases and Socio-economically Disadvantaged Controls* 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;128(3):10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.11.011.
Background
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and substance use disorders frequently cooccur; their dual presence predicts poor prognosis. The genetic underpinnings of BPD have not been well-characterized and could offer insight into comorbidity. The current report focuses on the association of Neurexin 3 (NRXN3) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with BPD symptoms in heroin dependent cases and controls.
Methods
The sample of the Comorbidity and Trauma Study, a genetic association study of heroin dependence, consists of Australian heroin dependent cases ascertained from opioid replacement therapy clinics and controls ascertained in nearby economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods. The assessment included a screening instrument for BPD, used previously in Australian population surveys. Genotypic and BPD phenotypic data were available for 1439 cases and 507 controls. We examined the association of 1430 candidate gene SNPs with BPD phenotypes.
Results
One or more NRXN3 SNPs were nominally associated with all BPD phenotypes; however, none met the conservative significance threshold we employed to correct for multiple testing. The most strongly associated SNPs included rs10144398 with identity disturbance (p=4.9 × 10−5) and rs10151731 with affective instability (p=8.8 × 10−5). The strongest association with screening positive for BPD was found for the NRXN3 SNP, rs10083466 (p=.0013). Neither the correlation of BPD phenotypes nor the linkage disequilibrium relationships of the SNPs account for the number of observed associations involving NRXN3 SNPs.
Conclusions
Our findings provide intriguing preliminary evidence for the association of NRXN3 with BPD phenotypes. The strongest associations were found for traits (i.e., affective instability; identity disturbance) also observed with other disorders.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.11.011
PMCID: PMC3832348  PMID: 23245376
borderline personality disorder; NRXN3; genetic association study; heroin dependence
12.  Fine mapping of variants associated with endometriosis in the WNT4 region on chromosome 1p36 
Genome-wide association studies show strong evidence of association with endometriosis for markers on chromosome 1p36 spanning the potential candidate genes WNT4, CDC42 and LINC00339. WNT4 is involved in development of the uterus, and the expression of CDC42 and LINC00339 are altered in women with endometriosis. We conducted fine mapping to examine the role of coding variants in WNT4 and CDC42 and determine the key SNPs with strongest evidence of association in this region. We identified rare coding variants in WNT4 and CDC42 present only in endometriosis cases. The frequencies were low and cannot account for the common signal associated with increased risk of endometriosis. Genotypes for five common SNPs in the region of chromosome 1p36 show stronger association signals when compared with rs7521902 reported in published genome scans. Of these, three SNPs rs12404660, rs3820282, and rs55938609 were located in DNA sequences with potential functional roles including overlap with transcription factor binding sites for FOXA1, FOXA2, ESR1, and ESR2. Functional studies will be required to identify the gene or genes implicated in endometriosis risk.
PMCID: PMC3852639  PMID: 24319535
Endometriosis; WNT4; CDC42; chromosome 1p36; rare variants; common variants
13.  An Australian Twin Study of Cannabis and Other Illicit Drug Use and Misuse, and Other Psychopathology 
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug throughout the developed world and there is consistent evidence of heritable influences on multiple stages of cannabis involvement including initiation of use and abuse/dependence. In this paper, we describe the methodology and preliminary results of a large-scale interview study of 3,824 young adult twins (born 1972–1979) and their siblings. Cannabis use was common with 75.2% of males and 64.7% of females reporting some lifetime use of cannabis while 24.5% of males and 11.8% of females reported meeting criteria for DSM-IV cannabis abuse or dependence. Rates of other drug use disorders and common psychiatric conditions were highly correlated with extent of cannabis involvement and there was consistent evidence of heritable influences across a range of cannabis phenotypes including early (≤15 years) opportunity to use (h2 = 72%), early (≤16 years) onset use (h2 = 80%), using cannabis 11+ times lifetime (h2 = 76%), and DSM abuse/dependence (h2 = 72%). Early age of onset of cannabis use was strongly associated with increased rates of subsequent use of other illicit drugs and with illicit drug abuse/dependence; further analyses indicating that some component of this association may have been mediated by increasing exposure to and opportunity to use other illicit drugs.
doi:10.1017/thg.2012.41
PMCID: PMC3717485  PMID: 22874079
Cannabis; twin; Comorbidity; Illicit drugs
14.  Cannabinoid receptor (CNR1) genotype moderates the effects of childhood physical abuse on anhedonia and depression 
Archives of general psychiatry  2012;69(7):732-740.
Context
The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in stress adaptation and the regulation of mood in rodent studies, but few human association studies have examined these links and replications are limited.
Objective
To examine whether a synonymous polymorphism, rs1049353, in exon 4 of the gene encoding the human endocannabinoid receptor (CNR1) moderates the effect of self-reported childhood physical abuse on lifetime anhedonia and depression and further, to replicate this interaction in an independent sample.
Design
Genetic association study in 1041 young adult U.S. women with replication in an independent Australian sample of 1428 heroin dependent cases and 506 neighborhood controls.
Main outcome measure
Self-reported anhedonia and depression (with anhedonia).
Results
In both samples, those who experienced childhood physical abuse were considerably more likely to report lifetime anhedonia. However, in those with one or more copies of the minor allele of rs1049353, this pathogenic effect of childhood physical abuse was attenuated. Thus, in those reporting childhood physical abuse, while 57% of those homozygous for the major allele reported anhedonia, only 29% of those who were carriers of the minor allele reported it (p < 0.02). rs1049353 also buffered the effects of childhood physical abuse on major depressive disorder, however this influence was largely attributable to anhedonic depression. These effects were also noted in an independent sample, where minor allele carriers were at decreased risk for anhedonia even when exposed to physical abuse.
Conclusions
Consistent with preclinical findings, a synonymous CNR1 polymorphism, rs1049353, is linked to the effects of stress attributable to childhood physical abuse on anhedonia and anhedonic depression. This polymorphism reportedly resides in the neighborhood of an exon splice enhancer and hence, future studies should carefully examine its impact on expression and conformational variation in CNR1, particularly in relation to stress adaptation.
doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2273
PMCID: PMC3706194  PMID: 22393204
CNR1; endocannabinoid; physical abuse; rs1049353; GxE; anhedonia; major depression
15.  Congruence of Additive and Non-Additive Effects on Gene Expression Estimated from Pedigree and SNP Data 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(5):e1003502.
There is increasing evidence that heritable variation in gene expression underlies genetic variation in susceptibility to disease. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the similarity between relatives for transcript variation is warranted—in particular, dissection of phenotypic variation into additive and non-additive genetic factors and shared environmental effects. We conducted a gene expression study in blood samples of 862 individuals from 312 nuclear families containing MZ or DZ twin pairs using both pedigree and genotype information. From a pedigree analysis we show that the vast majority of genetic variation across 17,994 probes is additive, although non-additive genetic variation is identified for 960 transcripts. For 180 of the 960 transcripts with non-additive genetic variation, we identify expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) with dominance effects in a sample of 339 unrelated individuals and replicate 31% of these associations in an independent sample of 139 unrelated individuals. Over-dominance was detected and replicated for a trans association between rs12313805 and ETV6, located 4MB apart on chromosome 12. Surprisingly, only 17 probes exhibit significant levels of common environmental effects, suggesting that environmental and lifestyle factors common to a family do not affect expression variation for most transcripts, at least those measured in blood. Consistent with the genetic architecture of common diseases, gene expression is predominantly additive, but a minority of transcripts display non-additive effects.
Author Summary
Gene expression levels are known to influence common disease susceptibility in humans, with GWAS significant SNPs frequently found in regulatory regions. The expression levels of most genes are influenced by genetic variants, often located close to the gene itself. Expression Quantitative Trait Loci (eQTL) mapping studies have been very successful in identifying SNPs associated with expression levels; however, little is currently known about the extent of additive and non-additive genetic variance and the role of common environment on gene expression. Here we report a comprehensive study of the sources of genetic and non-genetic variation for gene expression levels using both pedigree and genotype information. We show that the majority of transcripts exhibit only additive genetic variance with congruence from independent methods using pedigree and genotype approaches. However, there are a small number of probes whose expression levels are influenced by non-additive genetic variance. For some of these probes we identify SNPs acting in a dominant and over-dominant manner that replicate in an independent sample. Surprisingly, only 17 probes exhibit significant levels of common environmental effects, suggesting that environmental and lifestyle factors common to a family do not affect expression variation for most transcripts, at least those measured in blood.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003502
PMCID: PMC3656157  PMID: 23696747
17.  Loci affecting gamma-glutamyl transferase in adults and adolescents show age × SNP interaction and cardiometabolic disease associations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(2):446-455.
Serum gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) activity is a marker of liver disease which is also prospectively associated with the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers. We have discovered novel loci affecting GGT in a genome-wide association study (rs1497406 in an intergenic region of chromosome 1, P = 3.9 × 10−8; rs944002 in C14orf73 on chromosome 14, P = 4.7 × 10−13; rs340005 in RORA on chromosome 15, P = 2.4 × 10−8), and a highly significant heterogeneity between adult and adolescent results at the GGT1 locus on chromosome 22 (maximum PHET = 5.6 × 10−12 at rs6519520). Pathway analysis of significant and suggestive single-nucleotide polymorphism associations showed significant overlap between genes affecting GGT and those affecting common metabolic and inflammatory diseases, and identified the hepatic nuclear factor (HNF) family as controllers of a network of genes affecting GGT. Our results reinforce the disease associations of GGT and demonstrate that control by the GGT1 locus varies with age.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr478
PMCID: PMC3276286  PMID: 22010049
18.  Genome-wide association meta-analysis identifies new endometriosis risk loci 
Nature genetics  2012;44(12):1355-1359.
We conducted a genome-wide association (GWA) meta-analysis of 4,604 endometriosis cases and 9,393 controls of Japanese1 and European2 ancestry. We show that rs12700667 on chromosome 7p15.2, previously found in Europeans, replicates in Japanese (P = 3.6 × 10−3), and confirm association of rs7521902 on 1p36.12 near WNT4. In addition, we establish association of rs13394619 in GREB1 on 2p25.1 and identify a novel locus on 12q22 near VEZT (rs10859871). Excluding European cases with minimal or unknown severity, we identified additional novel loci on 2p14 (rs4141819), 6p22.3 (rs7739264) and 9p21.3 (rs1537377). All seven SNP effects were replicated in an independent cohort and produced P < 5 × 10−8 in a combined analysis. Finally, we found a significant overlap in polygenic risk for endometriosis between the European and Japanese GWA cohorts (P = 8.8 × 10−11), indicating that many weakly associated SNPs represent true endometriosis risk loci and risk prediction and future targeted disease therapy may be transferred across these populations.
doi:10.1038/ng.2445
PMCID: PMC3527416  PMID: 23104006
19.  GWAS of butyrylcholinesterase activity identifies four novel loci, independent effects within BCHE and secondary associations with metabolic risk factors 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(22):4504-4514.
Serum butyrylcholinesterase (BCHE) activity is associated with obesity, blood pressure and biomarkers of cardiovascular and diabetes risk. We have conducted a genome-wide association scan to discover genetic variants affecting BCHE activity, and to clarify whether the associations between BCHE activity and cardiometabolic risk factors are caused by variation in BCHE or whether BCHE variation is secondary to the metabolic abnormalities. We measured serum BCHE in adolescents and adults from three cohorts of Australian twin and family studies. The genotypes from ∼2.4 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were available in 8791 participants with BCHE measurements. We detected significant associations with BCHE activity at three independent groups of SNPs at the BCHE locus (P = 5.8 × 10−262, 7.8 × 10−47, 2.9 × 10−12) and at four other loci: RNPEP (P = 9.4 × 10−16), RAPH1-ABI2 (P = 4.1 × 10−18), UGT1A1 (P = 4.0 × 10−8) and an intergenic region on chromosome 8 (P = 1.4 × 10−8). These loci affecting BCHE activity were not associated with metabolic risk factors. On the other hand, SNPs in genes previously associated with metabolic risk had effects on BCHE activity more often than can be explained by chance. In particular, SNPs within FTO and GCKR were associated with BCHE activity, but their effects were partly mediated by body mass index and triglycerides, respectively. We conclude that variation in BCHE activity is due to multiple variants across the spectrum from uncommon/large effect to common/small effect, and partly results from (rather than causes) metabolic abnormalities.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr375
PMCID: PMC3196893  PMID: 21862451
20.  First all-in-one diagnostic tool for DNA intelligence: genome-wide inference of biogeographic ancestry, appearance, relatedness, and sex with the Identitas v1 Forensic Chip 
When a forensic DNA sample cannot be associated directly with a previously genotyped reference sample by standard short tandem repeat profiling, the investigation required for identifying perpetrators, victims, or missing persons can be both costly and time consuming. Here, we describe the outcome of a collaborative study using the Identitas Version 1 (v1) Forensic Chip, the first commercially available all-in-one tool dedicated to the concept of developing intelligence leads based on DNA. The chip allows parallel interrogation of 201,173 genome-wide autosomal, X-chromosomal, Y-chromosomal, and mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms for inference of biogeographic ancestry, appearance, relatedness, and sex. The first assessment of the chip’s performance was carried out on 3,196 blinded DNA samples of varying quantities and qualities, covering a wide range of biogeographic origin and eye/hair coloration as well as variation in relatedness and sex. Overall, 95 % of the samples (N = 3,034) passed quality checks with an overall genotype call rate >90 % on variable numbers of available recorded trait information. Predictions of sex, direct match, and first to third degree relatedness were highly accurate. Chip-based predictions of biparental continental ancestry were on average ~94 % correct (further support provided by separately inferred patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry). Predictions of eye color were 85 % correct for brown and 70 % correct for blue eyes, and predictions of hair color were 72 % for brown, 63 % for blond, 58 % for black, and 48 % for red hair. From the 5 % of samples (N = 162) with <90 % call rate, 56 % yielded correct continental ancestry predictions while 7 % yielded sufficient genotypes to allow hair and eye color prediction. Our results demonstrate that the Identitas v1 Forensic Chip holds great promise for a wide range of applications including criminal investigations, missing person investigations, and for national security purposes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00414-012-0788-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00414-012-0788-1
PMCID: PMC3631519  PMID: 23149900
DNA intelligence; Forensic DNA phenotyping; SNP; Prediction; Relatedness; Kinship; Ancestry; Eye color; Hair color; Sex
21.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Australian Adults: Prevalence, Persistence, Conduct Problems and Disadvantage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47404.
Background
The Prevalence and persistence of ADHD have not been described in young Australian adults and few studies have examined how conduct problems (CP) are associated with ADHD for this age group. We estimate lifetime and adult prevalence and persistence rates for three categories of ADHD for 3795 Australian adults, and indicate how career, health and childhood risk factors differ for people with ADHD symptoms and ADHD symptoms plus CP.
Methodology
Trained interviewers collected participant experience of ADHD, CP, education, employment, childhood experience, relationship and health variables. Three diagnostic definitions of ADHD used were (i) full DSM-IV criteria; (ii) excluding the age 7 onset criterion (no age criterion); (iii) participant experienced difficulties due to ADHD symptoms (problem symptoms).
Results
Prevalence rates in adulthood were 1.1%, 2.3% and 2.7% for each categorization respectively. Persistence of ADHD from childhood averaged across gender was 55.3% for full criteria, 50.3% with no age criterion and 40.2% for problem symptoms. ADHD symptoms were associated with parental conflict, poor health, being sexually assaulted during childhood, lower education, income loss and higher unemployment. The lifetime prevalence of conduct problems for adults with ADHD was 57.8% and 6.9% for adults without ADHD. The greatest disadvantage was experienced by participants with ADHD plus CP.
Conclusion
The persistence of ADHD into adulthood was greatest for participants meeting full diagnostic criteria and inattention was associated with the greatest loss of income and disadvantage. The disadvantage associated with conduct problems differed in severity and was relevant for a high proportion of adults with ADHD. Women but not men with ADHD reported more childhood adversity, possibly indicating varied etiology and treatment needs. The impact and treatment needs of adults with ADHD and CP and the report of sexual assault during childhood by women and men with ADHD also deserve further study.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047404
PMCID: PMC3468512  PMID: 23071800
23.  A quantitative-trait genome-wide association study of alcoholism risk in the community: findings and implications 
Biological psychiatry  2011;70(6):513-518.
Background
Given moderately strong genetic contributions to variation in alcoholism and heaviness of drinking (50–60% heritability), with high correlation of genetic influences, we have conducted a quantitative trait genomewide association study for phenotypes related to alcohol use and dependence.
Methods
Diagnostic interview and blood/buccal samples were obtained from sibships ascertained through the Australian Twin Registry. Genomewide SNP genotyping was performed with 8754 individuals [2062 alcohol dependent cases] selected for informativeness for alcohol use disorder and associated quantitative traits. Family-based association tests were performed for alcohol dependence, dependence factor score and heaviness of drinking factor score, with confirmatory case-population control comparisons using an unassessed population control series of 3393 Australians with genomewide SNP data.
Results
No findings reached genomewide significance (p=8.4×10−8 for this study), with lowest p-value for primary phenotypes of 1.2×10−7. Convergent findings for quantitative consumption and diagnostic and quantitative dependence measures suggest possible roles for a transmembrane protein gene (TMEM108) and for ANKS1A. The major finding, however, was small effect sizes estimated for individual SNPs, suggesting that hundreds of genetic variants make modest contributions (1/4% of variance or less) to alcohol dependence risk.
Conclusions
We conclude that (i) meta-analyses of consumption data may contribute usefully to gene-discovery; (ii) translation of human alcoholism GWAS results to drug discovery or clinically useful prediction of risk will be challenging; (iii) through accumulation across studies, GWAS data may become valuable for improved genetic risk differentiation in research in biological psychiatry (e.g. prospective high-risk or resilience studies).
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.02.028
PMCID: PMC3210694  PMID: 21529783
Alcoholism; genome-wide association; quantitative-trait; non-replication
24.  A 3p26-3p25 genetic linkage finding for DSM-IV major depression in heavy smoking families 
The American journal of psychiatry  2011;168(8):848-852.
Objective
The authors tested for genetic linkage of DSM-IV-diagnosed major depressive disorder in families that were ascertained for cigarette smoking.
Method
Within a study that targeted families characterized by a history of smoking, analyses derived a subset of 91 Australian families with two or more offspring with a history of DSM-IV major depressive disorder (affected sibling pairs, N=187) and 25 Finnish families (affected sibling pairs, N=33). Within this affected sibling pair design, the authors conducted nonparametric linkage analysis.
Results
In the Australian heavy smoking families, the authors found a genome-wide significant multipoint LOD score of 4.14 for major depressive disorder on chromosome 3 at 24.9 cM (3p26-3p25).
Conclusions
Genome-wide significant linkage was detected for major depressive disorder on chromosome 3p in a sample ascertained for smoking. A linkage peak at this location was also observed in an independent study of major depressive disorder.
doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10091319
PMCID: PMC3433250  PMID: 21572167
25.  High-density fine-mapping of a chromosome 10q26 linkage peak suggests association between endometriosis and variants close to CYP2C19 
Fertility and sterility  2011;95(7):2236-2240.
Objective
To refine a previously reported linkage peak for endometriosis on chromosome 10q26, and conduct follow-up analyses and a fine-mapping association study across the region to identify new candidate genes for endometriosis.
Design
Case-control study.
Setting
Academic research.
Subject(s)
Cases = 3,223 women with surgically confirmed endometriosis; Controls = 1,190 women without endometriosis and 7,060 population samples.
Intervention(s)
Analysis of 11,984 SNPs on chromosome 10.
Main outcome measure(s)
Allele frequency differences between cases and controls.
Results
Linkage analyses on families grouped by endometriosis symptoms (primarily subfertility) provided increased evidence for linkage (logarithm of odds (LOD) score = 3.62) near a previously reported linkage peak. Three independent association signals were found at 96.59 Mb (rs11592737, P=4.9 × 10−4), 105.63 Mb (rs1253130, P=2.5 × 10−4) and 124.25 Mb (rs2250804, P=9.7 × 10−4). Analyses including only samples from linkage families supported the association at all three regions. However, only rs11592737 in the cytochrome P450 subfamily C (CYP2C19) gene was replicated in an independent sample of 2,079 cases and 7060 population controls.
Conclusion(s)
The role of the CYP2C19 gene in conferring risk for endometriosis warrants further investigation.
doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.03.062
PMCID: PMC3125525  PMID: 21497341
Endometriosis; linkage; association; subfertility; CYP2C19

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